Ice cube trays: who knew they were useful for so much more than ice cubes?
Here in the Thrifty House, they help to reduce food waste – thus saving money on our monthly grocery bill.
I started out by freezing homegrown herbs into ice cube trays, preserved in a little water, when winter rolled in and my herb garden died away. From there, it mushroomed. Now, as you can see, I use ice cube trays to store various odds and ends in the freezer.
You know those jars, packets and cartons of perishable foodstuffs? The ones bearing legends such as, ‘once opened, consume within three days?’ Like a lot of cooks, I would open them up to use small amounts as recipes demanded – and then end up binning the rest of the contents, after finding them at the back of the fridge a few days later, looking dodgy.
Right now, here is what you’ll find lurking in my freezer trays (pictured):
Frozen basil is a disaster, but pesto freezes brilliantly and defrosts swiftly. I add a cube to pasta sauces when I’m running low on fresh herbs. It’s also very handy when I’m whipping up a quick dinner after work in the week: bob a frozen pesto cube on top of a frozen salmon fillet (the ice-glazed ones from the freezer section of the supermarket, around £3 for five, which you can cook from frozen), parcel up in tin foil and bake for 25 minutes.
I add cubes to pasta sauces, stocks and gravy.
I keep the rinds and add them to minestrone and to cheesy soups (e.g. broccoli and Stilton) for extra flavour. It’s an old Nigella tip; storing the hard cheese rinds in ice cube trays, however, means that the small rinds are easy to find in the freezer. Also, if you add rinds to soups like I do, don’t forget to pull them out when serving. Otherwise, someone will get a mouthful of chewy cheese…
4. DOUBLE CREAM & CREME FRAICHE
Yes, it freezes and defrosts perfectly: it’s ice cream, after all! I use cream regularly, but in small quantities. And let’s face it: cream isn’t cheap. Adding the remnants of pots to ice cream trays ensures that I spend a lot less on cream than I would do otherwise. The other bonus is that I don’t have opened pots of the stuff mouldering away at the back of the fridge.
I add frozen cubes of cream to a number of soups, sauces and slow cooker recipes: the kinds of recipes that call for a couple of tablespoons, or half a small pot of cream to be added right at the end. They include Frugal Grandma’s amazing tomato soup recipe, Marie Rose sauce and my slow cooker chowder.
In all honesty, I’m getting through so many cubes of cream right now – in the photo above you can glimpse a couple defrosting, fittingly, in one of my favourite ice cream bowls – that I’m minded to turn a tray over to double cream.
Other items you can freeze in ice cube trays:
5. FRESH HERBS
More details here, along with the tempting suggestion to add cubes of frozen mint to mojitos.
6. CHOPPED CHILLIES
I can never get through those supermarket bags of chillies before they begin to turn squishy.
7. LEFTOVER WINE
As previously noted in a recipe for baked figs, I appreciate that leftover wine is an unknown event in some households. However if you have dregs left in a bottom of a bottle, set to turn into vinegar, you can freeze them to use in cooking.
8. SALAD DRESSING
What can I say? If there is any left over, I don’t like to waste it.
You can pop out your chosen cube with a small, sharp knife. It is quick, and saves banging the tray around or fussing with warm water.
Finally, if you don’t have ice cube trays to hand, or if yours are in use, you can pick up additional trays at pound shops and supermarkets for around £1 for two.
If you have any other ideas about good foodstuffs to freeze, please let me know: I am sure there are many more.